I really enjoyed Mass Effect. It was a somewhat natural evolution from KOTOR in terms of sci-fi RPG, and the first one really opened the door to possibilities. With the exception of the vehicle portion, the other systems were just extensions to the KOTOR ones, for better or worse. This was the game that had the most bearing on stats and character selection… some characters couldn’t really use weapons in any meaningful way. In a sense, this was sort of like a dev school project, with a ton of risks taken. What came out at the end is absolutely more than the sum of its parts.
Mass Effect 2 took a really cool approach, one in refinement of less ideal systems and then major expansion on the story elements. The expanded universe, the loyalty missions, and that final mission with actual consequences was a massive breath of fresh air. It only suffers from the ‘Two Towers’ syndrome of being the middle chapter in a trilogy, yet still manages to outshine the bookends. That is most evident in the rather incredible character development arcs seen with Garrus, Liona or
Mass Effect 3 is a curious case of EA’s overall vision coming into gameplay decisions. Recall day 1 DLC of a Prothean character, a race that was hinted at from the first 20 minutes of the first game. The story and mechanics were iterations on the 2nd game all the way until the final act. I’ve never found an acceptable answer as to what happened in the dev cycle to think this release was a good idea. The pushback was so fierce that BioWare built an expanding final act to provide some measure of closure, one of the first times I had ever seen that occur. In a personal opinion, this is the point where I think BioWare lost its way in overall design.
In the technical space, they are sticking with Unreal 3 in order to avoid having to remake the game in a new engine. Considering the last 5 years of BioWare development, this seems like a VERY wise move. I would much rather see an upscaled and tweaked version than something like Warcraft III Reforged. It’s painful porting recent code, let alone deciphering stuff from 15 years ago that’s held together with hope. (Oh how I do miss my code monkey days.)
The game will come with all DLC, and come in two flavours – Standard and Cache (collector’s). So no digital bonus bits, or pre-order garbage. The Caches comes with physical assets including a helmet to scale (1:1!!) Buying the base games today would set you back $70, so this works out a better deal. Or, get EA’s monthly sub for $15 and get it there. Dunno if I’d be able to get through all 3 games in a month though.
The executive in me is thinking that this package is an effort to judge market appeal for Mass Effect 4, and to give BioWare some decent cred given recent years’ stumbles. A relatively low risk effort that can have a very high payoff. They could use it.
Reminder for all of us to not pre-order. If it’s good and working, you can buy it on day 1. If it needs a kitchen sink patch to work, you save yourself the headache.